We’re lovin’ it! How burgers became the nation’s comfort food during lockdown

Burgers in lockdown - mcdonald's quarter pounder w_cheese - mediashotz

Burgers – and McDonald’s in particular – led the way when it came to fast-food delivery during lockdown, according to new analysis from market research firm Savanta. 

The restaurant chain achieved 151% penetration growth throughout Q3 2020 year-on-year, as Brits looked for comfort in the familiar during uncertain times.

This positive uplift in penetration surpassed key competitors following the reopening of non-essential shops from June 2020 for takeaway and delivery. 

It was driven by 16-24 year olds, who had the highest response rate (42%) to ordering from McDonald’s, followed by the 25-34 age group with 40%.

Burgers to go

McDonald’s therefore saw the highest increase in delivery orders throughout June 2020 year-on-year (14%) in the quick service restaurant (QSR) sector.

Given that 16-35 year olds are 10% more likely to use a delivery aggregator such as Just Eat or Deliveroo than any other age group, it comes as no surprise that they continued to order McDonald’s even when physical restaurants were closed for dining in.

The data was taken from Savanta’s BrandVue reputation tracking tool. It canvassed more than 96,000 UK adults on which brands they loved, as well as rating them against more than 50 criteria including innovative, trustworthy, friendly, stylish and ethical.

The data highlighted that ‘convenience’, ‘speed of delivery’ and ‘speed of service’ were the most commonly-used terms to describe McDonald’s during the last year. 

There were also marked improvements when it came to ‘speed of delivery’ and ‘price of delivery’. 

It all demonstrated a concerted effort by the fast-food chain to ensure loyal customers got their burgers during lockdown.

McDonald’s also saw brand love increase significantly over Q4 2020, suggesting that these characteristics were most valued during the lockdown era and therefore gave McDonald’s a competitive advantage.

Competing brands associated with supposedly ‘higher quality’ food did not witness similar spikes in brand love, demonstrating that during lockdown, convenience outweighed quality in influencing brand loyalty and purchase behaviour. 

It also suggests that customers are going with brands that are familiar, bringing them comfort in uncertain times.

McD’s, KFC and Burger King

McDonald’s joined the likes of rivals KFC and Burger King, with home delivery usage on the rise (13% increase) during Q1 2021 along with most QSR brands. 

Burger delivery is on course to remain a popular alternative to eating out, as well as the more traditional delivery options such as pizza, curries and Chinese food.

Roger Perowne, CEO of Savanta, said: “Traditionally the delivery market has been dominated by curries, pizzas and Chinese. 

“COVID and lockdown changed all of that, with even the biggest fast-food chains having to adapt their offering to ensure survival.

“This meant that positive buzz around the likes of burger joints such as McDonald’s and Burger King remained high, as they shifted focus on offering delivery options to customers who wanted a bit of normality during a difficult period.

“This has been driven by the 16-34 age group. Their enthusiasm for delivery aggregators such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo has meant that home delivery usage is at an all time high. 

“Since March 2020, we have actually seen an increase of 20% in people using those platforms. Even with the traditional drop-off in the autumn months, we still expect it to be the highest usage in this period to date.

“Delivery clearly works for QSRs, and burgers are at the very centre of this trend.”

The full Most Loved Brands 2021 report, featuring the full list of the UK’s most loved brands, can be downloaded here.